Human rights lawyer in apartheid South Africa who represented Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial

George Bizos, who has died aged 92, was the best known lawyer in South Africa. To many, his stout and slightly rumpled figure represented all that was best about the law, a man who was seemingly always there, attack or defence, when a wrong had been committed or human rights trampled on.

His most famous client was Nelson Mandela. At the Rivonia trial of 1963-64– in which the leadership of the African National Congress were tried for sabotage, a capital offence – Bizos made a small, but significant intervention, which may have saved Mandela’s life. It came when Mandela was preparing his famous statement from the dock with the help of lawyers and others. The statement ended with the words “it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

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